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Heart of the Volunteer: Personal Expectations

Posted on November 12, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Barbara Buckner

 “Never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t give you credit.”

We’ve asked you in the past to think back to why you joined Civil Air Patrol to tell your story when recruiting.  Each of us has a different reason and a different “draw” this program had to them.  And, for most of us, that draw is the reason why we are still members.  Now, I want you to think about another aspect of volunteering: your personal expectations as a volunteer.
Let’s be blunt: 
Being a volunteer means giving up your time and money for a cause that you don’t get paid for.  
We all know it – we all live it.  And that is something we all should have accepted when we turned in our membership application.  Will it have its ups and downs?  Of course…just like any other activity you engage in or even your job.  
So why did you do it?
This topic will probably stir up some opinions, but it is a topic I felt was way overdue in being addressed.
There have been comments expressed lately from members (past and present) that don’t feel “appreciated”…and I think some of it is because they may have an alternate view to what being a volunteer is and different expectations of they should “get” out of being a volunteer.  While Civil Air Patrol does its best to encourage recognition in the forms of publications and awards, that really should be viewed as a “bonus” and not an expectation on the part of the member.  If that is the only reason why you do the work you do, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
Do I understand what it feels like to puts lots of time and work into a project here in CAP and not even get a simple “good job” from my Commander?  Yes, I have had that happen to me numerous times since I rejoined as a Senior Member.  Have I watched people get awards for things that weren’t all that spectacular – or worse, taken credit for someone else’s hard work – while my efforts went “un-awarded?”  Yep…but getting awards isn’t why I am a volunteer in Civil Air Patrol and I hope its not the only reason why you are as well.
You see – to me, the reason why I volunteer is simply: to make a difference.
Where have I gotten my “appreciation” from?  
Well, when I was in Cadet Programs it was watching the smiles and excitement on the faces of my cadets when they got to take on roles or participate in activities that I worked hard to arrange for them.  Or having their parents pull me aside to thank me for how their child had matured as a result of being in the program.  
In my current role, it’s the simple emails notes of “thank you” that I receive from RROs and CCs on the tips I’ve been sending out to help.  That is the reason why I do what I do…to help others because I can.
There are so many different volunteer organizations out there that don’t offer the awards and recognition that Civil Air Patrol does.  Their “gratitude” is usually in the form of a thank you letter or a pizza party because that’s all they can offer due to funds.  What those volunteers understand is that giving their time doesn’t mean you will “get” anything – they volunteer because its something that touched their hearts or is something that they believe in and they want to help make a difference.  
There are always long hours going to be put in, different views towards leadership (and let’s remember they are volunteers as well putting in more hours that the average members does) and frustrations with other members…but are you going to let that sway you or allow you to become disgruntled from being a positive influence?  
We are fortunate in that Civil Air Patrol does have a recognition program available.  Does it need some tweaking?  Does leadership need to be taught more about the how and when to give awards so that it maintains its value?  Yes, but that will always some of the challenges we have as members move in and out of positions.   We also don’t want to start using these awards to keep people in the program - that diminishes the value of the awards.

We want you to be a part of Civil Air Patrol because you want to be here and want to help us make a difference in our communities.  
No amount of “retention” work we try to create or modify will be able to keep those in the program that don’t have it in their hearts to be a part of it…and we don’t want to make you stay either if our program really isn’t a fit for you.
Take a moment today to really think about what being a “volunteer” means to you.  
Maj Barb Buckner, CAP
Recruiting & Retention Manager
CAP National Headquarters


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